We all sit here wondering and contemplating. Trying to banish the thought of the worst happening and daring to dream that we’ll bury the old enemy and secure a first Wembley visit in thirty years.
If we were playing another team that had finished sixth, were it Wolves or Brentford, I’m not sure the nagging doubts would exist. We’re playing at home against a side that were evidently inferior over a season and that we’ve beaten twice. In addition, we went there first in this tie and despite playing within ourselves emerged relatively unscathed.
The nerves only exist because it’s “them” and it would be doubly painful if we offered up a performance that allowed them to negate their inferiority.
But what if we just take a professional view? What if we try and remain neutral for the few hours that remain before the biggest derby for a generation?
3rd vs 6th. An 8 point cushion emerged despite finding ourselves an unbelievable 10 points in arrears at one stage. A goal difference of +40 against their meagre return of whatever it was. We have an array of players that have played at the highest level; internationals that have faced the likes of Germany and Italy. Ipswich at home in front of a partisan following should hold few fears for them. Howson, Johnson, Bassong, Olsson, Martin, Ruddy, Hoolahan, Jerome and even the borrowed Dorrans have proven top level ability while Nathan Redmond has shone at junior international level. Gary Hooper has Champions League experience – in quality terms it feels like Mike Tyson fighting a chump.
But even the devastating power of Tyson got chumped by Buster Douglas because his eyes weren’t on the prize; seeming invincibility and off field distractions finished him.
Luckily we have Alex Neil. A man that clearly suffers no fools and has remained impressively assured and quiet in the week since the Portman Road episode.
Perhaps that’s because his neck is recovering from trying to spot the ball in the Suffolk sky but I’m inclined to think that it’s because we don’t need to talk up our own chances.
We simply need to go out and perform. Deliver another assured, accomplished performance. It doesn’t need to be particularly polished – the one-dimensional launch it and hope approach of Ipswich will make that difficult – but effective.
We, of course, can do our bit.
Ipswich won’t be used to playing in front of a big crowd. Perhaps last week lifted them but this time around it will be the polar opposite of that. There’ll be no claps of approval as they punt another up and under forward, any mutterings of approval that meet another space launch from the back will be drowned out by the CR faithful.
That’s our job.
Not that anyone will need reminding.
We’re at home. We’re better than them and our fans are more loyal than theirs.
We’ll make it a partisan cauldron of noise and just like last time they won’t know what hit them. They’ve had three bites of the cherry and their best result is a draw to bring to the Carra. So 1-1 is 0-0 if you like; we just need to win.
We’d all have taken that before last weeks game and all the shite-stirring in the world from Dozzell, Holland et al doesn’t change that.
It’s lip service.
Put the nerves and the pessimism aside and go in confident. Our squad of internationals is better than this rag-tag bunch and we’ve already proven it; tomorrow is just an opportunity to bang the nail home with the heaviest of all hammers.
Johnno’s left foot…